Inability to use objects and perform tasks

Alternative names 
Apraxia; Movements - inability to perform useful tasks


Apraxia is when a person cannot perform useful tasks even though their muscles and senses work properly.


Apraxia occurs in many forms, including:

  • a failure to understand the use of an object  
  • inability to use an object or perform a task  
  • inability to do something because of forgetting the command  
  • or the inability to control speech muscles and speak understandably

Common Causes

  • Dementia  
  • Stroke  
  • Hemodialysis (prolonged)  
  • Neurodegenerative illness  
  • Brain tumor

Home Care
Safety measures should be taken to compensate for weakness, confusion, sensory deficiencies, or seizures that may accompany this problem. Participation in normal activities is encouraged.

Extreme patience should be exercised with people who suffer from apraxia. Take time to demonstrate tasks and allow sufficient time for the afflicted person to perform the task. Avoid complex directions.

Call your health care provider if

Call your health care provider if there is unexplained and persistent lack of ability to do simple, routine acts.

What to expect at your health care provider’s office
The medical history will be obtained and a physical examination performed. If there are seizures, the patient will be stabilized first.

Medical history questions documenting your symptom in detail may include:

  • Do you undergo hemodialysis (for chronic kidney failure)?  
  • What other symptoms are also present? Especially, is there:       o Confusion or disorientation       o Memory loss       o Weakness or paralysis of any body part       o Numbness or tingling of any body part       o Seizures

The physical examination will include emphasis on examination of the nervous system.

Diagnostic tests that may be performed include:

  • CT scan or MRI of the head or affected area  
  • Blood tests  
  • Lumbar puncture  
  • X-ray

Referral to a physical therapist and sometimes an occupational therapist may be indicated.

After seeing your health care provider:
If a diagnosis was made by your health care provider as the cause of dysfunctional movement, you may want to note that diagnosis in your personal medical record.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 7, 2012
by Mamikon Bozoyan, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.